Now that it's available on digital (with Blu-ray coming next week), I'm glad we all agree that Halloween Ends is a perfect movie as is, no notes, and that it's kind of fitting that the only two movies in the franchise that everyone agrees on are the first and last ones.
I kid, of course. I wasn't even halfway through my first viewing (of three so far) before I knew without a doubt that it would be the most polarizing entry yet, even more than Halloween III and Rob Zombie's remake combined. Perhaps in the "Thorn trilogy" era, when it seemed the series would just go on forever, the idea of doing a film where Michael Myers wasn't the primary killer could have been more warmly received. Hell, to this day, people are mad that Halloween 5 didn't let little Jamie Lloyd be the film's heavy! But I also know that there is never any pleasing of this fanbase as a whole (or even a solid majority), so I champion the team for taking their big swing. Because no matter what they do, there will be people who hate it, and thus following their instincts and hoping for the best is the most logical approach (and should be for whoever makes the inevitable reboot).
Not all of it worked for me, and I will go to my grave believing that Ends *and* 2021's Halloween Kills both would have been an easier sell if their basic plots had been swapped around (so, a weirder/slower mid-trilogy entry focusing on Corey, followed by a now fully active Myers taking on all of Haddonfield in the final film), but for what it is, I think it's fine, and will continue to find fans as time goes on.
That said, the novelization from Paul Brad Logan - who is one of the film's four credited screenwriters - points to the possibility of a movie that might have been less divisive, especially to those who were angry that The Shape only appears once in the film's first hour. The book weighs in at 364 pages, and I'd estimate around a hundred of them are devoted to things the film never shows us. It's hard to say how much of it was ever seriously in contention to be in the film, but at least some of it is legit. One of the deleted scenes they're offering on the digital/Blu-ray purchase is accounted for here, and I've confirmed that two other sequences were at least indeed in the script at one point (cut before filming), but it's possible that Logan only came up with some of these other ideas when he sat down to write the novel. Still, given his obvious role in the shaping of the film and the fact that it's an "official tie-in" signed off by Blumhouse and their partners, I think it's safe to take all of this stuff as canon, and perhaps allow people on the fence to use it to fill in some of the narrative gaps that the feature film was unfortunately saddled with, should they ever give the movie another look.
First and foremost, I think it's fair to say that one of the big hurdles for Halloween Ends is that it feels like we missed a movie after Halloween Kills. At the end of Kills, Michael is seemingly done for thanks to a Haddonfield mob, only to get back up and kill the whole lot of them (including Tommy Doyle and Sheriff Brackett), and then make his way back to his house to murder Karen (Judy Greer) for good measure. This all suggests that his beatdown didn't really faze him, but when we meet up with him in Ends, he's practically invalid and needs help from a hermit (kind of like, er, Halloween 5). Nothing in the film explains this discrepancy, how he can be OK enough to wipe out his attackers but somehow still be damn near helpless a year later (especially with Laurie telling us that every time he kills, he gains more power), but the novel at least smooths it over a bit with some depiction of the following day, where he avoids detection from the police, murders a few people, and makes his way to the sewer tunnel. It's still not wholly clear, but the inference is that he was indeed left near dead from his attack and operating on a surge of adrenaline, of sorts, and now it's been exhausted.
We also learn more about Nelson, the homeless man helping him. Turns out he was another former Smith's Grove patient, one who was on the bus with Michael when he escaped in 2018, but was later recaptured. Due to budget cuts and such, Nelson ended up back on the streets anyway, and as luck would have it, he was kind of obsessed with his former asylum mate! He sees Myers ending up in his neck of the woods as a sign, and takes it upon himself to help him regain his strength by bringing him victims (so the book adds a third murderer to the mix). But Myers himself racks up a few more kills in these scenes; there's a lengthy chunk devoted to Kim (the girl Cameron made out with at the party in Halloween (2018), causing Allyson's departure) and her new boyfriend running into him at an abandoned meat packing plant. This sequence offers the sort of stalk n' chase elements that David Gordon Green largely ignored across his three films.
These and other diversions help bridge 2018 and the film's primary setting of 2022, a transition that is awkwardly handled in the feature but feels more natural here. One thing the movie really blunders is how Laurie ended up being seemingly OK after Karen's death on top of everything else (losing two friends who barely seemed to like her made her a hermit for 40 years, but losing her daughter resulted in her making pumpkin pies and putting up Halloween decorations?). Still, it makes a little more sense here. Through the internal recollections of Laurie, Allyson, and even Frank Hawkins (Will Patton), we learn that she actually began drinking heavily again after Karen's death, kept getting tossed out of various rathole apartments, and even toyed with suicide, only to start going to therapy (on Lindsey's urging) after hitting rock bottom. Writing her memoir is a part of that therapy, and while it's not a complete success (something the film doesn't quite establish), it's helping. Much like Michael's weakness, it doesn't explain the character turn completely, but it certainly helps us get closer to one.
Speaking of Lindsey (Kyle Richards), she appears more here than she did in the film, though it's clear that Logan wasn't any closer to figuring out what to do with her than the rest of his writers. There's a cute little scene where she has Frank play a few songs for the regulars at her bar on Halloween night (RIP to the talent show, I guess!) followed by her getting spooked by what she thinks is Myers but turns out to be a guy peeing outside, and some expansion to her bond with Allyson, so she's got a little more to do. Ultimately her expanded role here only cements my theory that they didn't want to kill her off (after murdering all of the other legacy players in Kills) but didn't have a real use for her in their already cluttered story, leaving her just kind of standing around in a few scenes, seemingly so people wouldn't ask "Where's Lindsey?"
Which brings us to Corey Cunningham — the internet's favorite new character. Weirdly, there's not much added with him, scene-wise. Apart from his thoughts, confirmation that Ronald - the no-joke best new character - is indeed his stepfather (something the movie infers but never spells out) and a few minor moments in existing scenes. These mostly consist of him kind of watching Laurie from outside and things like that. There's almost nothing completely new here, and the novel actually demotes him a bit by attributing his mother's death to Michael himself. Corey's mother, Joan, is the one who gets the most expansion. In fact - we get more of her obsession with bunnies, more of her fretting about Allyson and his motorcycle, and a little backstory explaining what happened to Corey's birth father. There's even more of her incest-y attitude toward him; when Laurie comes over to chat, Joan purposely begins folding Corey's underwear in front of her. Weird shit, man.
Basically, while we can't do much about the inner thoughts, if the movie depicted every scene in the novel, we'd have much more of Joan, Lindsey, Frank... even the bullies*, but Rohan Campbell's screen time would be pretty much the same. So to everyone who thought - and they're not entirely wrong! - that the movie focused too much on Corey, you'll be pleased to know that the novel version balances its sprawling cast out better. Of course, as written here, the movie would be around three hours long, and it's hard to cut Corey stuff out and keep the plot coherent since he's brand new (unlike Frank and Lindsey, who we know and can just pop in to make us smile without having to explain who they are and what they're doing). So it makes sense that the film ended up focusing so heavily on Corey at the expense of others, mainly to keep the runtime south of two hours.
And none of the added stuff changes anything, really; you could put all of this material in the movie, and none of it would disrupt anything we've seen. Outside of changing Joan's murderer to Michael for some reason, the only time Logan actually veers off course from the finished film is at the very end. As we know, Green and co. reshot the ending, just as they have for the other two entries. The author seemingly decided to split the difference between the new ending. The "funeral procession" through the town, with Michael ending up in a car crusher, was part of the reshoots and is included here.
The older one was more of a downer. Instead of Laurie asking Frank about the cherry blossoms and seemingly being open to finally having a real relationship with him (Frank's unrequited crush is fleshed out throughout his scenes in the novel; we learn of all the times he made sure she got home OK during her drinking days and such), she blows him off and leaves him worried that she has gone off the deep end for good, with her own inner monologue suggesting she is perhaps the next Michael (or next Corey, as it were). I hated the idea of leaving Laurie on a down note after all these years, and thus I feel the new ending is the best of what they had, so I was sad to see it resurface here in what is otherwise a more well-rounded account of the movie's events.
Logan also throws in some things that were probably never going to be clear in the movie and, again, could be his own invention that came to mind when he was writing, but they're fun all the same. My personal favorite is the reveal that Terry the bully is actually the grandson of Ben Tramer, he of the presumably unfulfilled date with Laurie Strode. Not just because it was a reference to a fan-favorite character but because of what it implies. Follow me here: Michael attacked Laurie in 1978, and thus Ben never got that date with her. So instead, his path changed: he met someone else, got married, had a son, that son had a son, and that grandson became an asshole who inadvertently caused Corey and Michael to cross paths, which in turn destroyed Laurie's life yet again. So it's an Easter egg kind of reference, sure, but if you put some thought into it, it's actually some solid ironic storytelling.
There's also something that tickled me and will hopefully do so for you if you happen to love/hate the Dan Fogelberg song "Same Old Lang Syne", which is about to begin interrupting holiday playlists. Skip this paragraph if you have no idea what the song is! For those who are still here, one of the very few new scenes with Corey depicts his ride with Laurie to the clinic to get his hand fixed (but really so she can introduce him to Allyson), and during that ride, we learn that Laurie is a fan of singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg. A meaningless detail, or so it would seem, until later when Laurie runs into Frank at the store. You see, one of Laurie's fave's biggest hits is a song called "Same Old Lang Syne," which is about two former lovers having a chance encounter at a grocery store and making awkward small talk because neither of them can say how they really feel - and that is exactly what is happening between our heroes here.
Logan's prose even directly echoes two lyrics from Fogelberg's song ("running out of things to say" and "neither one knew how"), so I have to believe it's all intentional and he, like myself and perhaps many of you, are endlessly amused by this cheesy but endearing "Christmas" song and found a way to work it into the novel, with the otherwise unnecessary reveal of Laurie's appreciation for the singer being the tipoff. If not, then it's the weirdest coincidence since... well, the events that inspired the song, I guess.
As a die-hard fan of both the franchise and of novelizations in general, I was left pretty disappointed with the tie-ins for the two other films in this trilogy (neither of which were written by Logan, to be clear). They both stuck to the film too closely to be interesting, with their rare diversions feeling more like silly jokes for the hardcore (Tommy is said to have a thorn tattoo in Kills, har har) rather than anything that might have been a legitimate idea "saved" after being removed from the film, as the new stuff often does here. There are some weird mistakes here and there (when Laurie reflects on her dead friends, she thinks about "Paul" instead of Bob). It definitely could have used a better editor (Allyson's frequent inner monologues about her feelings on Corey and wanting to leave are repeated ad nauseam), but overall it's the only one of the three novelizations I would recommend checking out, as I feel those who were let down by the movie can have some of their issues solved (or at least addressed) by one of the story's architects. And if you, like me, were already more or less a fan, there's more of it to enjoy, giving us a little extra time with these characters that we'll likely never see again.
*Specifically, the "marching band bullies," as they are snidely referred to online, but to me, this is one of the movie's better subtle bits of storytelling, that the town of Haddonfield is so infested with misery that even the traditionally "nice kids/dorks" have become assholes. I think certain folks were going to hate this movie no matter what and refused to engage with the material, taking easy shots at things because it would get them twitter likes.
Halloween Ends is available on Blu-ray December 27.